One of Charles Mingus' excellent albums for the Bethlehem label – recorded during that magical year of 1957, a real turning point in his career! There's a sharpness here to Mingus' musical vision that hadn't shown up in previous years – a refinement of ideas expressed for Savoy and Prestige on previous sessions, drawn with tighter tension, and a bolder sense of spirit and emotion throughout. The group's a well-chosen batch of modernists – with Shafi Hadi on alto and tenor, Jimmy Knepper on trombone, Clarence Shaw on trumpet, and the surprising addition of Bill Evans on piano – sounding a fair bit bolder here than elsewhere. Titles are almost all Mingus originals with a great balance of modern structures and freer solo moments – and tracks include "Conversation", "West Coast Ghost", "Fifty First Street Blues", "East Coasting", and the sublime "Celia", which Mingus and Hadi performed in the film Shadows by John Cassavettes. CD reissue also features bonus alternate takes of "East Coasting" and "Memories Of You". CD
A really great little set from Zoot Sims – earthy, and almost a bit more fragile than much of his other work! There's a real "down home" feel to the whole record – as Zoot blows comfortably and easily in a quartet with Dave McKenna on piano, George Tucker on bass, and Dannie Richmond on drums – making a rare non-Mingus appearance for the set! Zoot's horn has a bit more dirt in the tone than on some of his "cleaner" sessions – a style that we like a lot, and which really fits the feeling of the set. Titles include "Doggin' Around", "Avalon", "Jive At Five", "I've Heard That Blues", and "Goodnite Sweetheart". The CD contains 14 tracks, with a number of alternate takes, for a total of 72 minutes. CD
A fantastic sextet session recorded in 1961, shortly before Booker Little's death – and filled with all the promise and power he ever packed into his playing! There's a sharp, angular groove to many of the numbers here – that mix of modern and hardbop that was cresting best in the early 60s Blue Note generation – and which echoes some of the work that Little had done with Max Roach in the years before this date. The lineup's filled with great players to help Book realize his strongest musical vision – Julian Priester on trombone, George Coleman on tenor, Don Friedman on piano, Reggie Workman on bass, and Pete LaRoca on drums – and although the set's issued on the sometimes-staid Bethlehem label, it's got all the sharper edges of an early 60s date on a label like Impulse or Candid! Titles include "Matilde", "Booker's Blues", "Forward Flight", and "Victory and Sorrow". CD features two bonus tracks – alternate versions of "Looking Ahead". CD
A beautiful album by Mal Waldron – recorded in 1960, after the passing of Billie Holiday, and a very loving tribute by Waldron, who was her accompanist for a number of years. The set moves way past the usual "Holiday songbook" mode, and features instead a dark batch of tracks, two written by Waldron – "Minor Pulsation" and "Cat Walk" – a third written by him and Holiday, the famous tune "Left Alone". Jackie McLean plays some fantastic alto sax on the CD's version of "Left Alone", and the rest of the tracks are trio tracks played by Waldron, Julian Euell, and Al Dreares. The set also features one very strange track – "Mal Waldron: The Way He Remembers Billie Holiday" – which is an interview with Waldron about Billie! And sure, there were many cash-in records after Billie Holiday died, but this is one of the best, and it comes from a very legitimate source! CD features 6 bonus tracks – all the stereo takes of the album! CD
A gem of a set from a singer who should have been much bigger back in the 50s – served up with the same sort of small combo backings you'd get on the Chris Connor albums for Bethlehem! Marlene Cord is a hell of a singer on her own – with a voice that's never hokey, yet full of feeling – and able to inflect things with a knowledge of jazz, but in ways that never go too far over the top – just perfectly balanced with a subtle power that's really amazing. Yet she sounds even better alongside the music on the date – creative Chicago backings from a quartet that features Dick Marx on piano, Johnny Frigo on bass, Mike Simpson on flute, and Jerry Slosberg on drums. The flute's an especially great element – underscoring the vocals with some great blue tones – and titles include "I'm Thru With Love", "I Remember You", "I Got It Bad", "Lights Out", and "This Love Of Mine". CD
Frank Sinatra's first run of Christmas work – material recorded for Columbia Records in the late 40s, but quite similar to his better-known Holiday sides for Capitol in the 50s! As with that work, the style here is quite respectful of the spirit of the season – more reverent than playful, although always with an undercurrent of sadness that makes the tunes especially nice – that Christmas longing that would show up in the best Holiday records, which Sinatra always seemed to get. Heck, even the version of "Jingle Bells" sounds a bit melancholy – and pretty darn nice, too – next to tunes that include "Christmas Dreaming", "Winter Wonderland", "Let It Snow", "Santa Claus Is Comin To Town", and "White Christmas" – plus a medley of "O Little Town Of Bethlehem/Joy To The World/White Christmas", which begins with a cool spoken introduction. CD
A hugely expanded version of The Supremes classic Merry Christmas album from 1965 – presented here with full stereo and mono mixes, a new 2017 mix, and even bonus tracks too! The core album was one of THE classic Motown Christmas albums of the 60s – a mighty statement of Holiday pride from The Supremes – who are as strong here as on any of their other non-seasonal work from the time! The class and care of the trio really fits the new spirit of Christmas that was emerging in 60s soul music – not the kinds of raw songs about boozing or sadness on the holiday, which were a staple of blues and R&B – but instead these warmly crafted songs of home and hearth, set up perfectly with production by Harvey Fuqua and arrangements from Gene Page, HB Barnum and Ernie Freeman. The whole thing's incredibly soulful – but in a gentle way too – and the set features a dozen holiday numbers including "Silver Bells", "The Little Drummer Boy", "My Christmas Tree", "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer", "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", and "Joy To The World". 2CD version features 50 tracks in all – 12 mono tracks, 12 stereo, and 12 more titles that are all these very cool alternate mixes of the album, some with alternate vocals! Then, there's lots of Supremes bonus tracks too – including "The Christmas Song (duet version)", "Season's Greetings", "My Favorite Things (live)", "It Won't Be Long Til Christmas", "Just A Lonely Christmas", and "O Little Town Of Bethlehem". CD
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